Most dog owners know there are few things better than watching your four-legged friend run wild on a beach. There’s water, other dogs, tennis balls, opportunities to dig and roll around in mud, usually some scraps of food lying around — it frankly starts to sound like a good time for humans, let alone dogs. Dog-friendly beaches are a blast, and there are loads of top-class leash-free beaches all over the United States. If you’re the type of dog owner that answers every event invitation with, “it depends, are pups allowed?” then you’re in luck. If you’re adamant 2018 is the year beaches stop discriminating based on species, you’re in the right place. Pack your bags, pack your pooch, and head to one (or all) of the best dog-friendly beaches in the land of the free.
Fort de Soto Park and Dog Beach, Florida
Located in St. Petersburg just 45 minutes southwest of Tampa Bay, Fort de Soto is arguably the best pet-friendly park in the state of Florida. Visitors to the park can spend their day in the sun in a variety of ways including swimming, fishing, biking, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, hiking, or boating — all with your furry friends. There’s a quarter mile of white sand and clear Caribbean water where dogs can run, splash, and romp to their heart’s content. There are also 2.5 acres of grassy dog-friendly areas separated for large and small dogs. If your pup isn’t the friendliest of the bunch, there’s a 7-mile multi-use trail connecting some of the island’s best spots to get away from the madness.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
This spot in Oregon has all the characteristics that make the Pacific Northwest so appealing: rugged monoliths towering out of the shallow sea, waterfalls cascading onto the sand, a commotion of wildlife peeking out at low tide, and a nearby forest of lush evergreens. Dogs visiting Cannon Beach will enjoy sniffing through storied driftwood and the lingering scents of raccoons, chipmunks, deer, and elk. The beach itself is a great place to spend a day, but the nearby town is almost entirely pet-friendly with loads of restaurants, cafes, and hotels that happily accommodate dogs.
Huntington Dog Beach, California
Consistently rated as the best dog beach in Orange County and one of the best in California, Huntington Dog Beach is a gem. Boasting a massive 1.5-mile stretch of pristine coastline where dogs can run leash-free among picnic tables, dog-washing showers, and public restrooms, it’s one of the best spots around. However, Huntington is especially known for the community culture that surrounds the dog park. The Preservation Society for Huntington Dog Beach does a great job sharing information and putting on events including the annual Surf City Surf Dog, the SoCal Corgi Nation Beach Days, and even doggie weddings if your furry friend is feeling particularly monogamous.
Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan
On the south side of Lake Michigan lies one of the Midwest’s most geographically unique spots to bring your pooch. As the name implies, Warren dunes is a huge stretch of sand dunes bordering the lake. On an average weekend it’s common to see license plates from over 30 states — giving you an idea of this place’s desirability. Although you need to have your pet on a 6-foot leash, it’s still worth it to wind through rolling sand dunes and to hop over to the 3-mile beach.
Montrose Dog Beach, Illinois
Montrose Dog Beach is Chicago’s first legal off-leash beach park located just 15 minutes north of downtown. It’s open every day until 9:00 pm and is usually full of people from all around the area. Much like Huntington Beach, Montrose is held together by Mondog, an organization passionate about maintaining a thriving dog-friendly community. Events range from Santa Paws to Howl-o-Ween parties, beach cleanups, and Earth Day events. If you and your pup find yourself in the greater Chicago area, Montrose is the place to go.
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
This island off the coast of North Carolina is another great spot on the East coast for your mutt to sniff about. You’ll need to hop on a ferry to get to the island, and once you’re there, no cars are allowed. Feel free to explore the 14 miles of coastline as well as the marshes and hiking trails throughout the island. There are plenty of options for pet-friendly accommodations here too, so feel free to spend the night.